Sep 14, 2016 1:00 AM

David W. Wetter, PhD, and his team
David W. Wetter, PhD, and his team

SALT LAKE CITY—Officials at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah today announced the creation of a new center to be housed in the soon-to-be-completed expansion of HCI’s research enterprise, the Primary Children’s and Families’ Cancer Research Center. The new center will be called the Huntsman Center for Health Outcomes and Population Equity (HOPE) and will focus on discovering new ways to prevent and treat cancer among underserved populations, including individuals living in poverty and residents of rural (between 6.1 and 99.9 persons/sq. mile) and frontier (<6.1 persons/sq. mile) areas.

“Huntsman Cancer Institute takes care of patients from all over the American West and beyond. Within the network of National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers, HCI represents the largest land area—close to 17 percent of the United States—of any center,” said Mary Beckerle, Ph.D., HCI’s CEO and Director. “Yet, providing cancer prevention and control services to all residents of that vast region is tremendously challenging. How do you improve diet and physical activity, or improve cancer screening among people who live many, many miles from a clinic or hospital? Effectively addressing these issues is one of HCI’s top goals for the next decade.”

HCI and the Department of Population Health Sciences at the University of Utah recently recruited David W. Wetter, Ph.D., an international leader in the study of health-related behavior in high-risk and underserved populations, minorities, and women. Wetter is currently professor and chair of the Department of Psychology at Rice University in Houston, Texas. He previously led groundbreaking studies focused on tobacco use cessation, alcohol, diet and physical activity at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

At the Center for HOPE, Wetter will lead a team of scientists dedicated to improving cancer prevention and control among rural and frontier residents and other underserved populations including individuals living in poverty, Native Americans, Hispanics, and African Americans. A popular speaker, he has presented his work at several prominent national and international organizations and has published more than 180 original articles.

“I am tremendously excited about moving to HCI and the University of Utah as the faculty are absolutely outstanding with national reputations for excellence,” Wetter said. “I very much look forward to working with them, and with community and healthcare partners, to find solutions that will improve the health of individuals throughout Utah and the Mountain West. I feel a deep commitment to this part of the country as I grew up about three hours north of Salt Lake City.”

“HCI is committed to the improvement of clinical outcomes and addressing cancer health disparities through research. Dr. Wetter brings a wealth of experience and innovation to this enterprise,” said Beckerle. Wetter will begin his duties in December 2016.

According to Beckerle, Ana María Lopez, M.D., M.P.H., Associate Vice President for Health Equity and Inclusion and Director of Cancer Health Equity at HCI, will develop critical educational and outreach initiatives at the Center for HOPE. “Dr. Lopez is a highly experienced oncologist, educator, and researcher in the fields of telemedicine and patient-centered care. She will play a central role as we work to maximize patient inclusion, optimize outreach, and promote training of the next generation of investigators in cancer health disparities,” Beckerle said.

Media Contact

Heather Simonsen
Public Relations – Huntsman Cancer Institute
Email Us
801 581-3194

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About Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah

Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah is the official cancer center of Utah and the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the Mountain West. The campus includes a state-of-the-art cancer specialty hospital and two buildings dedicated to cancer research. Huntsman Cancer Institute provides patient care, cancer screening, and education at community clinics and affiliate hospitals throughout the Mountain West. It is consistently recognized among the best cancer hospitals in the country by U.S. News and World Report. The region’s first proton therapy center opened in 2021 and a major hospital expansion is underway. Huntsman Cancer Institute is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive environment for staff, students, patients, and communities. Advancing cancer research discoveries and treatments to meet the needs of patients who live far away from a major medical center is a unique focus. More genes for inherited cancers have been discovered at Huntsman Cancer Institute than at any other cancer center, including genes responsible for breast, ovarian, colon, head and neck cancers, and melanoma. Huntsman Cancer Institute was founded by Jon M. and Karen Huntsman.

Cancer touches all of us.

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